By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan left Wednesday night’s game with an obscene gesture toward fans – a flick of his hand under his chin that is understood to mean “f— you.” Thursday morning Nathan stood in front of his locker, contrite, and repeatedly apologized for the action.
While not excusing his response, Nathan said persistent boos from the fans caused him to snap.
“Right from the first pitch, right away, right out of the chute, I think I threw ball one and it started,” Nathan said. “Hearing it the whole inning just got the better of me, and my frustrations came out, and obviously it happened.
“It was bad on both parts, frustration came out on both sides, and I apologize to the fans, I apologize to my kids, and I will be better,” Nathan added.
Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez had talked Wednesday night about the unrealistic expectations of fans, who seem to want the team to win the division by 10 or 20 games and who get testy otherwise. Nathan said the expectations are fair but added it would be nice to have support, a sentiment Martinez had also expressed.
“Especially when you’re on the road and you have a tough road stretch, it’s good to come home and have some cheers as opposed to the other side when we’re on the road,” Nathan said. “Do we want that? Absolutely. Does it mean they can’t boo us? No. It’s their right to do whatever they want and how they feel, and if they’re frustrated then do that, but I let my frustrations get the better of me last night, and that’s what I’m here apologizing for.”
The closer said he harbors no ill-will toward the fans, even when they boo.
“Listen, there’s no hard feelings,” Nathan said. “I know they’re behind this team 100 percent … I know they want us to go out there and be perfect every time. I wish it was that easy too, but this game isn’t easy. Sometimes you’re going to go out and have struggles. The thing is, I don’t feel like I have been struggling lately. I feel like it’s gone pretty well.”
Nathan blew a save when he pitched Saturday, and he gave up three runs in a loss July 19, but over Nathan’s last 15 outings, he has a 2.51 ERA and a batting average against of .208. The team’s record in that stretch is 10-5.
“I think fans just have a short leash on how they want me to go out on pitch,” Nathan said. “I think they have a perception of how it should go, and if it doesn’t go exactly that way, they get frustrated. Understandable. Like I said, we both want to win. We both want to get to the same goal.”
Usually, the booing does not bother the closer.
“Obviously it did last night,” Nathan conceded. “Normally it doesn’t. I think my frustrations just got the better of me.”